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Must Ultralights Follow Other FAA Regulations?

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), governs aviation in the United States. Ultralights are defined and regulated by Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) Part 103. In FAR Part 103, an ultralight is defined as a vehicle. Other FAR's, refer to aircraft.

Since the FAA defined an ultralight flying under Part 103 as a vehicle, and since other FAR's use the word aircraft, are ultralights also required to follow other FAA regulations, such as Part 91?

Ultralights are not required to follow other FAA regulations (except those parts referenced in Part 103.20). In fact, FAR 91.1 specifically excludes ultralights from Part 91 requirements.

Even though we may not be required to follow this regulation, I believe at the very least, ultralight pilots should read and be familiar with this regulation. In the name of safety, it would be nice for us to try to follow some of the rules in Part 91 (such as VFR cruising altitudes, etc).

A while ago, I wrote the the FAA, asking for them to clarify their position on this matter for me.

Here is my request to the FAA:

>Subject: Regulations
>From:    Bob Comperini
>To:      FAA
>Date:    12/18/1998 8:56 AM


>Greetings,

>I am an active ultralight flight instructor with the United States
>Ultralight Association.

>As you know, ultralights are regulated by FAR Part 103.

>Quite often, I get asked the question whether or not ultralights are also
>subject to other FAR's (such as Part 91, VFR rules, etc.).  This question
>comes up a lot because in FAR Part 103, ultralights are defined as
>"vehicles" (not "aircraft"). Other regulations, including Part 91, talk
>about "aircraft".

>Some people think this means that ultralights are exempt from any portion
>of this regulation, solely because of the words "aircraft" .vs. "vehicle".

>When I train students, I make them very much aware of Part 91, and tell
>them that pertinent parts of this regulation should also be followed (even
>if we're not required to), for safety reasons, if nothing else. (As an
>example, 91.159 - VFR Cruising altitudes).

>Can you give me any guidance (or references) where I can get these terms
>("vehicle" and "aircraft") clarified? Why did Part 103 call ultralights
>"vehicles"? How would you answer the question of whether or not Part 103
>ultralights are "exempt" from any other FAR?

>Thanks in advance.

Here is the response I received from the FAA:

>Date: Tue, 05 Jan 1999 15:34:47 -0500
>From: "WebmasterAFS"<WebmasterAFS@faa.gov>
>To: Bob Comperini
>Subject: Re: Regulation

>>>Can you give me any guidance (or references) where I can get these terms
>("vehicle" and "aircraft") clarified?<<

Sure. The term "aircraft is defined in FAR Part 1. It says, "Aircraft"
means a device that is used or intended to be used for flight in the air.
The term "vehicle" and "ultralight" is not defined in FAR Part 1.

One could interpret the definition of "aircraft"  to also include ultralights
since they are indeed a device intended to be used for flight. But, in the
preamble to the original FAR 103 (as published in the Federal Register on Sept.
2, 1982) we state that ultralights would not be considered aircraft for purposes
of airworthiness certification and registration nor would their operators be
subject to the same pilot certification and operational requirements as aircraft
operators. FAR 103 does not require airman/aircraft certification or vehicle
registration but, rather, is premised on the absolute minimum regulation
necessary to ensure safety in the public interest. We used the word "vehicle"
since the common meaning of the word is a device or structure for
transporting persons or things. We purposely did not want the word
aircraft used in the context of describing an ultralight.

>>>Some people think this means that ultralights are exempt from any
>portion of this regulation, solely because of the words "aircraft" .vs.
>"vehicle".<<

And they're right. Ultralight operators are *NOT* subject to any
regulation other than FAR Part 103. That regulation contains all the
operational conditions and limitations necessary to ensure safety in
the public interest. Part 91, as you point out, pertains to aircraft.
In fact 91.1(a) specifically excludes ultralights. That section states:
"(a) Except as provided in paragraph (b) of this section and Sec.
91.703,  this part prescribes rules governing the operation of aircraft
(other than moored balloons,  kites, unmanned rockets, and unmanned
free balloons, which are governed by part 101 of this chapter, and
ultralight vehicles operated in accordance with part 103 of this
chapter) within the United States,  including the waters within 3
autical miles of the U.S. coast."

I don't disagree with you teaching ultralight operators about other FARs
such as 91, 135, etc. Even though 103 is the only regulation that applies
to them, some basic knowledge of other regulations probably doesn't hurt.
Ditto other FAA documents such as the AIM, etc.

Best Regards

Rick Cremer, Aviation Safety Inspector (Ops and AWS)

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This page updated on: November 02, 2006
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